E.R. Frank, author of the acclaimed Life is Funny and America, which inspired the Lifetime movie
“Torrey Maldonado’s Secret Saturdays ought to be required reading at middle schools everywhere. Maldonado gives us both voice and heart. His young characters navigate a challenging world with endearing earnestness, lively style, and a heartening desire for true dignity.”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (BCCB)
“This urban tale explores inner-city life for a middle school audience with sympathy and humor, while underscoring the emotional effects of hardship on the characters’ lives… readers will find both insight and hope in Justin’s efforts to help his friend.”
“Debut author Maldonado convincingly portrays roughneck playgrounds where boys are expected to be ‘hard’ and to ‘[d]is or get or get dissed on.’ Justin’s narration resonates with the authenticity of a preteen doing his best in an urban landscape that has taught him all he knows.”
Sean is Justin’s best friend – or at least Justin thought he was. But lately Sean has been acting differently. He’s been telling lies, getting into trouble at school, hanging out with a tougher crowd, even getting into fights. When Justin finally discovers that Sean’s been secretly going to visit his father in prison and is dealing with the shame of that, Justin wants to do something to help before his friend spirals further out of control. But will trying to save Sean jeopardize their friendship? Should Justin risk losing his best friend in order to save him?
See Torrey Maldonado reading Secret Saturdays
About Secret Saturdays
- An American Library Association’s Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.
- In Essence magazine as a Best Afro-Latino Children’s Book
- A Kansas National Education Association’s recommended book for Middle and High Schools.
- On the Pennsylvania School Library Association’s Young Adult Top Forty reading-list.
- The official book of the National Night Out Against Violence & Crime.
- Maldonado chosen as “Top Ten ‘New’ Latino Authors to Watch (and Read).“
- Featured on The Brown Bookshelf as its Day 12 book as part of its Black History Month celebration.
Secret Saturdays is for
- Being the real you
- Enjoying reading with no curses and zero sex
- Making tough choices
- Building better friendships, trust
- Balancing wanting to do what is right with what your surroundings tell you.
Read an excerpt from Secret Saturdays
We ran fast and I tried not to bust my butt because the ground was slippery with glass and garbage. Burned car parts. Broken bikes. Boxes with trash in them. We got to a window, and as scared as I was, I hopped in first because I still figured a dog might pop out of somewhere. Sean was right behind me. It was dark in the Grey House. The only light came in through the windows. I checked my watch and could barely see the time: 5:45 P.M. I caught something else. My palms were black like I had rubbed charcoal on them. The fire that burned the Grey House must’ve left ash, and it got on me when I climbed in the window. “This ain’t coming off,” I said, showing Sean my hands.
“Calm down. It’s on me too. We’ll wash it off later,” Sean said. All of a sudden, his face glowed like a lightbulb. I turned to see what he was looking at. A staircase. It had one step, then two steps missing, then another step, then three steps missing. The staircase was mostly stairless.
“Son, we need to climb that,” Sean said.
I had a huge smile and he knew why. I was The Man at climbing. I used to rock-climb up the three-story bread factory behind my building just for fun. I’d squeeze my fingers into cracks in the wall and grip my hands onto poked-out bricks and grab and yank myself up until I stood on the cracker factory roof.
We walked up staircase after staircase. On some floors, only half a staircase went up to the next floor. The other half was missing from the fire. When we found staircases like that, me and Sean walked up as far as we could, then tugged at wires and pipes hanging out walls to see if they felt strong enough to hold our weight. If they didn’t snap out the wall, we grabbed them and pulled ourselves to the next floor. We got to the fourteenth floor before we knew it. We looked for a staircase going up to the fifteenth floor but couldn’t find one. We wandered into this huge room full of factory machines. Dust on everything. Probably old equipment used back in the day. Light came in through busted windows. Sharp, broken glass stuck out window frames like they could slice somebody’s head off. While eyeing the room, I saw on the opposite side a staircase going up to the next floor. That’s when I spotted something that scared me. The floor between us and that staircase had huge holes in it. Everywhere. Like heavy equipment had fallen through it. We had to cross this holey floor to get to the staircase.
Sean moved farther into that room.
“Chill.” I grabbed his arm. “That floor’ll break.”
“Relax.” He snatched his arm and took another step to see if the floor was solid. He looked at his feet and waited. Nothing. My heart was beating hard. Sean took another step forward and stood still again for two seconds. Nothing happened. Sean took a few steps more into the room. From his new spot, he jumped up and down.
He looked at me and smiled. “See?” he said, waving me to come over. “It’s fine.”
I slowly stepped halfway to where he was.
“Keep coming!” he yelled.
I moved in closer.
“Now, follow me,” he said. He turned and took a step, and the floor broke right underneath him. His legs went straight down until he was showing only from the waist up. I grabbed his forearms type-fast and pulled. But his skin and my hands were slippery from that black charcoal stuff. Sean kept sliding down. He started crying, “Pull me up!”
I had never seen Sean so scared.
I reached for his T-shirt and caught some of it under his armpit. With my other hand, I grabbed a pipe built into the floor. Sean kept slipping deeper into the hole and stuff flashed through my head. Like Sean falling downstairs and breaking his leg. Him laid out with his skull cracked open and bleeding.
Sean’s eyes were shut tight and tears ran down his cheeks. He breathed so hard through his mouth that I thought he was having an asthma attack.
I gripped the pipe harder and pulled on his tee and started to cry. Sean came more out the hole. A second later, his hand was next to mine on the pipe. Soon we were laid on the floor, side by side.
Content copyright © 2009-2010. Torrey Maldonado. All rights reserved.
More Reviews for Secret Saturdays
“This is a story of friendship, survival, deception and relationships… a fast read, entertaining and high interest.”
– Library Media Connection
“Maldonado’s first book- set in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Housing Projects, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in New York- is notable for it’s viscerally authentic treatment of setting…it’s voice- Justin’s first person vernacular- is infectiously readable, and its characters are sympathetically realized.”
“Resonates with the authenticity of a preteen doing his best in an urban landscape that has taught him all he knows.”
– Publishers Weekly
“Maldonado sticks his finger in an all too familiar hole of a broken-hearted urban community. Playground tough with a sweet center.”
– Rita Williams-Garcia, Coretta Scott King honor award-winner for Like Sisters on the Homefront.
“The world these boys live in is all too real. Torrey Maldonado writes with insight and authenticity about friendship and tough choices. It’s a story you won’t forget.”
– Coe Booth, author of the critically acclaimed Tyrell, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.
“Secret Saturdays is an amazing book for middle school students. It’s an accessible read for reluctant readers and deep enough for the most sophisticated readers. In my 7th grade Literacy class, it is the most popular book for independent reading time and has lead to great discusssions about male identity and secrets in my classroom. Highly, HIGHLY recommended for any kid in middle school. They will thank you for it.”
– Dave Paris, Middle School Literacy Teacher
“The unique thing about Secret Saturdays is no matter how many coming of age stories you’ve read, this one touches you. It calls to mind your first friendship—the one you needed to feel secure, but also doubted. It calls to mind struggles to balance trust, dependence, wanting to be accepted, and wanting to do what’s right.”
– Shannon Firth, Senior Writer, Dulcinea Media
“This is a wonderful and sorely needed young adult book aimed at a demographic that is often ignored. Mr. Maldonado has made an important contribution to young adult literature which should create a thirst for more stories from this talented writer.”
– Lynn Villagran, Social Worker, California
“When I read this book, I could experience what it was like for a young boy to grow up in the Red Hook projects of Brooklyn. Having taught middle school for almost 30 years, I instantly realized what a great read this would be for middle school students. Not only would adolescents identify with Sean and Justin, but they would be intrigued by the mystery in the plot line. As a teacher I know that the choices that Sean eventually made were ones that we would hope all young males in the throws of adolescence would make.
One thing I especially enjoyed about Secret Saturdays was the way Torrey Maldonado captured the language, the self-consciousness, and the false bravado of thirteen year old boys. The close friendship of Sean and Justin was also something that all middle school students– either boys or girls–will identify with.
This book is a must read for all middle school students, especially those living in urban environments or in single-parent households. I truly enjoyed this great new novel for young readers!”
– Nancy Lobell, Teacher
“What an absolutely marvelous book this is! I am a recently retired NYC public and middle school ELA teacher. While reading Secret Saturdays, I kept thinking, “Oh, how I wish I had this book to read with my students!” It speaks eloquently to that age group and touches upon so many of the issues with which they deal. I was particularly taken with Justin, Sean, Vanessa, and Kyle. The friendship is so real and delightful. They care so much about each other and are filled with adolescent angst and uncertainty when confronted with life’s vagaries. I admired and believed in them. I recognized my students in the characters and their situations. As with all good books, there are numerous lessons to be learned and ideas to be discovered and discussed in Secret Saturdays. It most definitely is ‘a must read’.”
– Martha Morenstein, Middle School ELA teacher with plus 30 years experience.
“With its engaging voice and insight into the realities of teen life, I’m sure Secret Saturdays will fly off my library’s shelves. Maldonado has written a book that will appeal to just about every kid I know.”
– Melissa Ahart, Librarian